Spellcaster, George Bachman

Spellcaster, George Bachman

Spellcaster

Spellcaster is an intriguing mix of fantasy and steampunk, opening in a Victorian-style London amid a group of debutantes from an eclectic mix of backgrounds. Christine, also called Ophelia or Tom-cat by her adoptive sisters, turns out to have a hidden talent for witchcraft. While manoeuvring through appearance-conscious London society, she is also trying to find out why she isn’t alone in her own head, and why most of the mystics in the city won’t help her.

For me, one of the challenges with the story is that the read is chaotic. Every character comes equipped with at least one nick-name, one given name, and one (or more) formal names depending on the situation, and there is a wide cast of secondary characters, all of whom will also be called by any one of several names or a title when they show up. Christine’s viewpoint is frequently coloured or overlaid completely with visions or nightmares, and the fact that she is the main protagonist, and has an entire hidden life of spellcraft that she lies about to everyone around her, doesn’t help to keep the progression of the plot clear.

At about halfway through the book, Christine finally finds out who is in her head with her; a misogynistic, highly focussed knight from the end of the French Dark Ages. At about two-thirds of the way through the book, the French knights, or rather knight and squire at that point, manage to extricate themselves from Christine’s life, and that is, very abruptly, the last that you see of the character in whose head you have spent the first two-thirds of the book. The latter part of the book is written from the point of view of one of the knights, fighting a supernatural enemy with a magical artifact that they somehow found out about and tracked down at some point prior to their abrupt appearance in the Victorian era.

In short, I found that the plot, once I managed to disinter it, was inventive and worthwhile. It was, however, badly let down by the technical side of the story-telling, which is frankly a great shame. Some work to provide the reader with the context of both the timelines, consistent naming of the characters in the plot, and some pruning of the descriptive passages would immediately catapult this book two stars higher for me.

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Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, Tessie Jayme

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, Tessie Jayme

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica

The epic science-fiction, Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica, by Tessie Jayme, is set in a future where an institution known as the Special Abilities Training Institute explores extraordinary mental abilities of all kinds from telepathy to eidetic memory, and where Earth has made contact and treaties with a planet named Lyrica, home to a race of powerfully telepathic beings. Dwylla and Brig-Aaron, attending a SATI recruitment trial, are picked up immediately for training. Neither they, nor their recruiters, suspect that before they’ve even completely finished their training, they will be part of a team picked to journey covertly to Lyrica to join the Earth Embassy there.

Peace Warriors of the Galaxy: Journey to Lyrica explores an unusual slant on the sci-fi staple of psionic abilities, where Dwylla’s ability to block another’s telepathy is one of the rarest talents. This book is very clearly the first book in a series, with a number of romantic and plot arcs opened, but where the resolutions for almost all of them are held for the second or even the third book. I did feel that the Ryndell character was damaged somewhat by his transformation into the kind of martinet leader who sets edicts, disobeys them, and then demands obeisance from his inferiors. Overall, I found the story to be a pleasant read, although the pacing was impacted by the sheer volume of adjectives that embroidered the many of the descriptions of persons and scenes. The development of Lyrica and the Lyricans also added some interesting touches.

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Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes (Stranded in Paradise Book 1)

Set in the spring of 1899, Lindsay Marie Miller’s Jungle Eyes introduces us to Mr. Henry Rochester of New York, descendant of royalty and eligible bachelor, whose mother is unrelentingly anxious that he should make a good match. In desperation, Henry signs on for an exploratory voyage into the Atlantic, timed to get him safely out of reach of all good matches for at least nine months. However, as voyages of exploration tend to, the voyage took an unexpected turn, and Mr. Rochester finds himself stranded on a tropical island, wholly dependent on a beautiful castaway for care of his injuries. However, their survival hangs by a thread…

Jungle Eyes is a solid period romance, a little flexible on geography but studded with beautifully set cameo locales and close-ups of our hero and heroine. Written with a good feel for dialogue, the main focus is on Henry Rochester, and the tempestuously chaotic attraction that springs to life between him and his island rescuer, Elaine Carmichael. Lindsay Marie Miller creates an unusual, antagonistic atmosphere between the two, which remains remarkably consistent right through to the close of the book. With exotic locations, pirates, treasure caves and hurricanes, this book has something to offer to a range of readers.

Stone and a Hard Place, R L King

Stone and a Hard Place, R L King

Stone and a Hard Place (The Alastair Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Stone and a Hard Place is a story of magic, academia, and a demon for good measure. Alastair Stone has a quiet job teaching Occult Studies, to classes mostly composed of would-be horror authors. Unlike his colleagues, Alastair actually knows what he’s talking about; he’s a mage. It’s a fact he goes to some lengths to keep hidden, and he’s got pretty good at his cover. However, a late-night call from an old friend lands him with something he’d never seriously contemplated having: an apprentice. After that, it’s only a matter of time until Alastair finds himself facing personal and demonical upheaval in his quiet life – and the odds aren’t stacked in his favour.

R L King’s writing offers memorable characters with their own goals, histories and conflicts, and a setting straight out of urban legend, all spiced with touches of well-timed humour. The tension develops very neatly, with the layer of subterfuge and deceit adding depth to the main plot, and villains and victims who come to vibrant life in the pages. I found Stone and a Hard Place had everything a good urban fantasy needs, including a really credible magic system. The writing style is excellent, making it very easy to lose yourself in the story. I’ll definitely be making my way through the rest of this series.

Lacy’s End, Victoria Schwimley

Lacy’s End, Victoria Schwimley

Lacy’s End

Lacy’s End, by Victoria Schwimley, paints a graphic picture of domestic abuse from the point of view of Lacy, the teenage daughter of the town sheriff. Her frequent injuries have been ignored for years by Lacy’s school and the town at large alike, underpinned by the small-town belief that it’s a man’s right to rape his wife and discipline his daughter with his fists, and it takes a visit too many to the local hospital to tip one out-of-town doctor past the point of being able to overlook the situation. Allen Petoro involves social services, and stirs up more fuss than even the sheriff’s office can ignore, but Sheriff Waldrip has a badge, and a gun, and isn’t about to let some upstart doctor stand between him and his rights.

Lacy’s End is a compelling book, well-written and offering a glimpse into the psychology of the abused and the abuser, as well as the all-too-common bystander effect. Victoria Schwimley creates a realistic setting for her story, including a neat contrast between Lacy’s existence and the world of Allen Petoro, and the characters are well-developed and gripping. The touches of romance are well-done, and don’t detract from the main message of the plot. This book has much to offer to all ages of readers – definitely a worth-while read.